Northport’s Max Freeman received the Disabled American Veterans’ Jesse Brown Memorial Youth Scholarship — worth $20,000 — at its national convention in Orlando, Fla., on Aug. 10.
The money came with an additional perk — sharing the stage with President Barack Obama and wife, Michelle.
The 17-year-old honor student, who graduated Kings Park High School in June, will use the scholarship to study computer science at George Mason University in Washington, D.C., in the fall.
“Not only was it an incredible honor to stand beside the president and first lady, but also to stand in a room in front of 4,000 of our nation’s heroes,” said Freeman, 17. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience to receive such an honor.”
Seven other finalists received scholarships of between $5,000 and $15,000. The purpose of the scholarships is to encourage young people to get involved in volunteer work assisting veterans.
Volunteering at the Northport Veterans Affairs Medical Center for five years, Freeman received a better understanding of veterans, not only as heroes but as role models. From thousands of volunteers, Freeman was among the 41 youth servicing centers across the country to be nominated for the scholarships.
“Veterans serve as role models for young people like me to look up to and I’ve learned what it truly means to serve our great country,” Freeman said. “My career objective is to help save the lives of soldiers and strengthen our nation’s security.”
Freeman was first exposed to the center when he had his bar mitzvah there at age 13 and has continued volunteering there long after.
“I’ve seen the effects and damage of exposure to PTSD and IEDs in war to our veterans,” he said. “I watched as one of my role models succumbed to his battle of PTSD and through that I sadly realized disabilities can come in any form.”
At the center, Freeman has helped homeless veterans find homes, assisted them in applying for jobs online and played his trumpet to entertain residents, as well as setting up accessible personal computers for those residents.
In ninth grade, while volunteering for the center’s Office of Information and Technology, Freeman also helped create a music database for surgeons to use while operating.
What made Freeman a perfect candidate was his heartfelt recognition for veterans’ sacrifices and our country’s freedoms, DAV National Adjutant Marc Burgess said.
“His commitment to making sure they’re not forgotten is just outstanding for a young man his age,” Burgess said. “As we all grow older, we get to a point in our lives where we start to think about giving back, but Max has already started.”
Freeman is also a five-time gold recipient of the President’s Volunteer Service Award for his contributions on behalf of veterans at the Northport VA Medical Center.
His father, Jim, was thrilled and proud to learn that his son won the scholarship.
“Between his patriotism, interest in computer science and involvement with the VA, he’s decided to pursue a career where he can utilize his skills to help veterans,” Jim Freeman said. “He knows he wants to serve his country either through the military or federal service. He’s well prepared and eager and ready for the next step.”